Knife-fighters (Puukkojunkkarit in Finnish) were troublemakers who were active in Southern Ostrobothnia region in Finland in the 19th century. Antti Isotalo was a well known knife-fighter and I use him as an example, how to find the birth record of a person who lived in Finland during 1700 to 1900 and who were his/her parents.

Previous knowledge

The more you know of the person who you are investigating, the easier you find the birth records. In case of Antti Isotalo, you may just know that he has born in 1800´s somewhere in Southern Ostrobothnia in Finland, probably in Härmä locality.

Search using HisKi

HisKi is a valuable resource in looking information in the church’s History Books. It contains birth, marriage and death records of different parts of Finland divided to provinces and parishes. You will find more information of Hiski from page Who, where, when?

From the search page of Hiski, you will find that place Härmä is divided in two localities Alahärmä and Ylihärmä and they are situated in region 14 (South Ostrobothnia). By clicking the area in the map, you get a list of the parishes in that area. If you want to search a person from all of the parishes, choose button All. If you want to search only of one or some of the parishes, choose the parish. If you choose more than one parish, keep ctrl-button pressed during choosing the parishes. Then press button Selected. If you choose Alahärmä and Ylihärmä, you will go to page:

Parish selection
Search from selected parishes.

Unfortunately HisKi does not contain information from all years. You will see from the table, what information is available. From the list choose Christened and you will go the search page of Christened. You need to give available information of the person you are searching. In case of Antti Isotalo, you know the name and the last name of his father. You can also limit the years to 1800 onwards. Submit this search.

Antti Isotalo search form
Search from the records of Christened of Alahärmä and Ylihärmä parishes.

You will get following search result:

Alahärmä Christened
Search result from Alahärmä. There were no events in Ylihärmä.

This kind of search works often well, but in this case you did not find correct christening record for knife-fighter Antti Isotalo. From internet, you will easily find information of Antti Isotalo and you will find that Antti was born in 1831. There was no birth days from that year. You can also find that Antti´s father was Heikki.

Last name is not always a good search criterium especially in Ostrobothnia area. The family name was often not permanent in that area. Often the name of the farm or house was used as a last name. It changed if the family moved to another place. Often only the first name and patronyme (father name, eg. Antti Heikinpoika, Antti Heikki´s son) was used. Only the noblemen and the public officers had a permanent family name.

You can try to use father´s first name, Heikki instead of last name. If you do not determine the birth year, you get a long list of names of which one is correct. If you use just first name, farthers first name and birth year in the search like this:

Search using birth year and father´s first name.

The result of this search is:

Successful search result.

This result is in line with the information given in internet. Antti Isotalo was born on 30th of August 1831 and christened on 1st of September in Hanhimäki farm in Alahärmä. His father was Henrik Ericsson (Heikki Erkinpoika) and mother Maria Gustafsdotter (Maria Kustaantytär). Swedish form of the first name Antti is Anders.

Reading of both HisKi records and the original church records causes some problems. All the Church records in Finland were written until the middle 1800´s in Swedish. For English speaking people understanding Swedish may be easier than Finnish, but still there are many words and abbreviations which may cause problems. I will later deal more about the words and abbreviations used in church records.

Another problem is that also the first names were written in Swedish. However, if the person was Finnish speaking, he was surely used the Finnish form of the name. You need to decide, if you use the Swedish or Finnish form of the names. Late 1800´s all he Church books in Finnish speaking parishes were written in Finnish.

HisKi helps you with first names. You can write the first names either in Finnish form (eg. Antti) or in Swedish form (eg. Anders or Andreas). The search works with both names and also with several variations of the first name. The last names can cause more problems. They are usually written in Hiski in the same form as they were written in the original records and it has not always the same spelling as nowadays. HisKi can search also by using only part of the name. Therefore it is sometimes best to write only that part of the family name, which you think is always written in the same way (you do not need to use asterisk *). Even the first letter of the family name can be used, but the amount of search result can be large.

In translation of Swedish name to Finnish, you can use the list of the first names given in site

You can translate Swedish first name Henric (abbreviation Henr.) to Heikki, which is the most often used form. If any other variation is more often used in that district, you can use it. In case you know, that the person was Swedish speaking, you do not need to translate the first name.

Heikki´s patronyme is Ericsson. Word son is same both in Swedish and English but it is poika in Finnish. Eric is most often translated to Erkki. So Ericsson is Erkinpoika in Finnish. Antti´s father was Heikki Erkinpoika.


There are lot of abbreviations used is church records. You will need some help with them. gives a list of some abbreviations and explains them in English. There are also some other lists like in the site of Genealogical Society of Finland or (only in Swedish and Finnish).

This time, if was difficult to find explanation for the abbreviation Hsb if you do not speak Swedish. Closest is hb which is husbonde in Swedish and farmer or owner of a house in English and it is the correct explanation.

Antti´s mother is Maria Gustafs:dr. Abbreviation dr comes from Swedish word dotter (daughter in English). First name Maria is used both in Swedish and Finnish. Gustaf is usually translated to Kustaa. Mother´s name is Maria Kustaantytär.


We can conclude that Antti Isotalo´s parents are:
Father: Farmer Heikki Erkinpoika
Mother: Maria Kustaantytär.
Last name Isotalo was not yet used when Antti was born.